By: Lisa Hough-Stewart

In March 2021, WEAll published our Policy Design Guide. This Guide was co-created with over 70 WEAll members, and aims to support visionary policy makers to build more just and sustainable economies for people and the planet. 

It was never intended to simply be a guidance document,  rather to transform policymaking and bring to life better outcomes for our societies.  Almost as soon as it was published, we were seeking collaborators and funding to pilot the Guide in real life settings.

The WEAll hubs and their partners in California, Canada, New Zealand and Scotland are working with community partners and local or city governments to bring the Wellbeing Economy Policy Design process to life. WEAll has also teamed up with ZOE Institute for Future-Fit Economies to collaborate on the process and evolve their groundbreaking policy portal to share learnings and successes from the pilots.

These pilot projects (which you can read more about below) are setting out to do something new. They are attempting to transform not just policy results but the process of policy making and decision making itself–to become more inclusive and democratic. They are, in the spirit of the Guide, working in radically participatory ways so that the policy design processes are not only based on the co-created visions of communities but aim to meaningfully engage those communities at every stage of the process – from deliberation to implementation.

The Guide offers a roadmap for this process, as well as many tools and case studies, which are a starting point for the pilots. However, as they evolve in the process, they are also charting new ground, and much remains unknown. WEAll is keen to learn as much as possible from their experiences, working with the hub teams to share learnings and stories that might help other communities and policymakers setting out on a similar journey. We will also develop a new version of the Guide to incorporate their experiences. 

About the pilots

California

  • WEAll California is carrying out its pilot in the city of Pomona, where the mayor is committed to championing new economic approaches.
  • Jeremy Fackenthal, Managing Director of the Institute for Ecological Civilisation and co-founder of WEAll California explains: “We’re working with local organisations in the city of Pomona to help shape a long term framework and vision for a wellbeing economy, an economy that that works for all people and for the planet, that provides fair and equitable resources and opportunities for flourishing in a holistic set of ways.” 

Canada

  • The Well-being Economies Alliance for Canada and Sovereign Indigenous Nations (WEAll Can) in Canada is focusing on the City of Toronto for its pilot, building on the foundations of “Doughnut Economics” workshops with city officials in 2021.
  • Tara Campbell, Wellbeing Economies Specialist at David Suzuki Foundation which hosts WEAll Canada, explains: “We are working directly with city officials, elected officials and city staff to socialise these ideas about wellbeing economies and generate interest. The other part of the work is building up a community oriented coalition or network that is interested in exploring these ideas, to develop wellbeing visions for the city of Toronto, to evaluate what’s already been happening, and imagine policy initiatives that could take place.”

Aotearoa/New Zealand

  • WEAll Aotearoa/New Zealand is aiming to work with community partners in three different regions.
  • Paul Dalziel, Professor of Economics at AERU, Lincoln University and co-founder of WEAll Aotearoa/New Zealand, explains: “We are talking with community groups, who are not formally part of local government themselves, but are collaborating with their local council to promote a vision around participation of people and creating economic opportunities and general wellbeing for themselves, their families, and their communities beyond what the people can achieve just on their own.”

Scotland

  • WEAll Scotland is working with Perth and Kinross Council to deliver “Love Letham”: a project which aims to bring the long term visions to life of children and young people for a flourishing future in their community of Letham.
  • Sarah Stocks, Director of Northern Star which is working as an associate of WEAll Scotland to deliver this project,  explains: “We are working with local people and decision makers together, to first understand what wellbeing means to those people, particularly children and young people in Letham, and then to try and meaningfully affect change in the way that policies are made.”

The story so far

The pilots are still in their early stages, with most of them set to deliver their first community engagement activities in January 2022.

The story that emerges from their experiences so far is one of the importance of relationships and trust as the foundation for a Wellbeing Economy policy design process.

All four pilots have found enthusiasm and willingness to collaborate amongst community partners and policy makers, and they’ve also found that the investment of time and energy required in developing these crucial relationships is considerable. Tara from WEAll Can suggested that the Guide needs a “phase 0” focused on the importance of stakeholder mapping and relationship building, which is something we’ll definitely consider!

The pilot teams reflect on the importance of relationship building and trust

Jeremy, WEAll California: “ The connections that we’ve made have been a real highlight for me. Being able to use those connections toward something that will hopefully make a lot of impact for people in the city of Pomona. So for instance, talking with Sarah McKinley [Democracy Collaborative] and picking her brain about both the positives and the pitfalls of worker owned cooperatives. Also, connections in Pomona, particularly with Latino and Latina Roundtable. Having them as a partner, and a partner who has the same vision for wellbeing and is willing to even adopt some of our language and help use it to shape the way that they talk about the economy has been really a lot of fun.”

Yannick, WEAll Can: “One of the elements of that relationship building is also inviting people not to be speaking primarily from their professional role. In the case of Toronto, the commonality of everybody is that there are residents of a big city, of Toronto. So how do you also create the space where when the elected official comes in, they’re not automatically seen as the policymaker, and that they have to respond only from their professional role as an elected official?”

Justin, WEAll Aotearoa/New Zealand: “Relationships are critical for our Māori partners. Our Indigenous partners, they wouldn’t call it networking, they would call it relationships. So that’s a really important element we’re trying to work on. Two of our three proposed partners are based on existing relationships, for example we have a hub member working with a potential partner which presents a natural collaboration.”

Sarah, WEAll Scotland: “There was quite a lot of time at the beginning, with colleagues in Perth and Kinross Council, basically trying to understand where Perth and Kinross were at. When I look back I remember it being a lot of discussions about wording, how to come up with a description of the project that would work for Perth and Kinross council as well as work for WEAll. But it was really about understanding each other’s position and where we were coming from and what we all were interested in and what we could learn from this process. 

“When we’ve gone out into the community in Letham, sometimes it wasn’t the first people that we spoke to who were actually the people that we needed to engage. But it was necessary to speak to them in order to determine who was. So it’s like a snowball effect, where you speak to someone, and then ask them to tell you who else they think you need to speak to.”

Are you interested in finding out more about the pilot projects, or using the Policy Design Guide to inform your own work? Get in touch with me at lisa@weall.org

Image: Sarah Stocks, Love Letham stall engaging with community members at Letham Christmas Market

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